The alfalfa leafcutting bee Megachile rotundata (F.) is the primary pollinator for alfalfa seed production. Under standard management conditions, the alfalfa leafcutting bee develops to the diapausing prepupal stage under field conditions, after which they are cold-stored at a static temperature until the following spring, when temperatures are raised and development resumes. We have assessed the effects of a fluctuating thermal regime (FTR) during overwintering cold storage, where bees were exposed to a daily 1 h pulse of 20°C, and compared viability and insect quality to bees stored under a static thermal regime. Our results demonstrate that implementing an FTR protocol dramatically increases the survival of cold-stored alfalfa leafcutting bees, effectively extending their shelf-life into the subsequent growing season. These findings could substantially ameliorate significant obstacles that restrict the more widespread use of this important pollinator, such as the biological constraints that restrict its use in early blooming crops, and yearly fluctuations in bee prices that add significant financial uncertainty to end users. This study also strengthens a growing body of evidence that indicates FTR protocols are superior to static thermal regime protocols for insect cold storage.
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Vol. 106 • No. 3